States Still Seek To Restrict Voting Among Minorities 50 Years After Voting Rights Act

Fifty years following passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was designed to prohibit states from using tactics that made voting more restrictive for Blacks, several states currently have laws in place that serve to do just that, and a majority of state legislatures are considering similar restrictive bills.

Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland Gov.Martin O’Malley said Republicans in these states are seeking to “suppress the vote” by introducing legislation aimed at disenfranchising minority voters, and he is calling for a constitutional amendment that would put a stop to that.

“Last year, Republican state legislators in 29 states introduced more than 80 restrictive bills to require a photo ID, make voter registration harder, or reduce early voting,” O’Malley said in an email to supporters. “We know why they’re doing this: because Americans without a photo ID are disproportionately low-income, disabled, minority and Democratic.”

Republicans, meanwhile, say they don’t seek to disenfranchise Democrats; they are only trying to clean up the voting process and reduce fraud.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed by President Lyndon Johnson on Aug. 6 of that year, is a landmark piece of federal legislation enacted to prohibit racial discrimination in voting and outlaw literacy tests, poll taxes and other tactics used to discourage Black residents from voting.

Several states have passed measures to curtail or eliminate online registration, same-day registration and early voting. Some states have implemented programs requiring voter identification cards.

Laws requiring government-issued ID for voting affect a far greater share of poor people and minorities who do not have these forms of identification and lack easy access to birth certificates or other documents needed to obtain them.

O’Malley feels very strongly about every citizen’s right to vote, and if elected president, he promises to restore the voting rights of convicted felons.

“America’s criminal justice system is badly in need of reform. For too long, our justice system has reinforced our country’s cruel history of racism and economic inequality,” he wrote in a detailed policy paper. “All those who served time and re-entered society should be allowed to vote.”

Last week O’Malley kept his focus on race and policing, saying he will be unveiling his proposals for overhauling the nation’s criminal justice system, reforming police departments, addressing prison overcrowding and abolishing the death penalty.

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